Borough and market town in Ulverston parish, Lonsdale hundred, Lancashire North of the Sands. Became Ulverston UD 1894.


3,120 acres [1,263 ha], including 1,109 acres [449 ha] of common land enclosed 1813.


manor or barony of Ulverston held by Turulf 1066; subsequently formed part of honour of Lancaster. On division of honour after 1246, Ulverston was held in moieties; one passing to Furness Abbey by early 14th century; other granted to Roger de Lancaster by 1260s, from whose descendants it was acquired by Harrington family and descended with Muchland (see Aldingham). Both moieties came to Crown in 16th century (on Dissolution of Furness Abbey 1537 and forfeiture of duke of Suffolk 1554, respectively). Former Furness Abbey moiety came to Kirkbys of Kirkby Ireleth; former Harrington moiety had passed to Thomas Fell of Swarthmoor Hall by 1658. Fell’s son-in-law, Daniel Abraham, purchased Kirkby moiety 1718 and whole manor was sold to duke of Montagu 1736, descending thereafter with manor of Plain Furness (see Barrow). Manor of Neville Hall originated in grant by William de Lancaster to Lawrence de Cornwall in 13th century. By mid-14th century had come to Sir Edmund de Nevill, in whose family it descended until forfeited to Crown in later 16th century. Trinkeld (sometimes styled a manor) was held by branch of Fell family of Pennington from 1595. Conishead formed core of endowment of Conishead Priory; passing through several hands after Dissolution before coming to Braddyll family by late 17th century. Col. Thomas Richmond Gale Braddyll commissioned mansion to be built on site 1823. Origins and growth of the town. Borough privileges granted by charter of Gilbert son of Roger son of Reinfred c.1200. Market charter granted 1280. Ulverston became main market centre for Furness peninsula: in 1671 Sir Daniel Fleming called it ‘a good market, especially for corne’. In mid-19th century it was described as ‘the capital of Furness ... a neat and well-built market town and port’ (Mannex’s Directory, 1849). Its role as market for wide rural hinterland survived into 20th century, with hiring fairs continuing into 1940s. Cattle auction mart established 1877. Covered market hall opened 1878; destroyed by fire 1935 and replaced by present building. Early industries included tanning, woollen textiles and salt-making (recorded in place-name Salt Cotes). By 1840s Ulverston’s industrial base included tanyards on edge of town and at Dragley beck (recorded by mid-18th century); iron foundry at Dragley Beck and iron and brass foundry in Canal Street; paper mill at Ellers Mill; cotton mills (established from late 18th century; ceased during ‘cotton famine’ of 1860s) at Ellers High Mill and outside town at Low Mill; and linen weaving factory at Stonecross. Canal connecting town to sea, constructed 1793-6, led to increase in shipping trade; Ulverston became chief port for export of Furness slate and iron and copper ores. Shipbuilding also carried out until 1840s. Population doubled across first half of 19th century from 3,172 in 1801 to 6,742 by 1851. Canal became redundant after arrival of railway and opening of docks at Barrow and was formally abandoned 1945. Furness Railway’s line from Barrow reached Ulverston 1854 and Ulverston & Lancaster Railway to Carnforth, opened 1857, linked town to rest of Lancashire. Ulverston station became interchange for branch line to Lakeside, opened 1869, serving increasing numbers of tourists making excursions to Windermere; tourist accommodation expanded in town’s numerous hotels. Major expansion of industry in second half of 19th century, particularly along canal side, which led to growth of South Ulverston. Low Furness ironworks relocated to canal side 1850; closed by 1863 and replaced by Samuel Pollitt’s paper mill, established c.1870. Extensive complex of North Lonsdale Iron and Steel works: furnaces blown in 1876; closed 1938. By 1888 chemical works (established c.1861), wire works (recorded by 1882; closed before 1911) and brick works (from 18th century; expansion in later 19th; closed by early 20th) in Sand Hall area, served by mineral railway, which also linked to major expansion of quarrying at Gascow. Older industrial sites found new uses: by 1880s Low Mill had become tannery and iron foundry site at Dragley Beck had become shutter works. Process continued in 20th century: canal-side paper mill site used for servicing aircraft engines during Second World War and for making metal furniture 1945-1955; Glaxo (now GlaxoSmithKline) built pharmaceutical factory on ironworks site 1948; Low Mill tannery site redeveloped as business park 1995. Population continued to rise across later 19th century, from 7,414 in 1861 to 10,064 by 1901. Across 20th century it stabilised and stood at 11,524 in 2001.

Places of worship:

Medieval parish church of St Mary; tower rebuilt after 1540; remainder rebuilt 1804; further rebuilding and extension 1864-6 and 1903-4. Conishead Priory, founded as hospital in 1150s, but an Augustinian priory from c.1180; dissolved 1536. Medieval chapel on Chapel Island, established by prior of Conishead as refuge for travellers crossing the Sands. Holy Trinity Church, New Church Lane, built 1829-32; enlarged 1881 and again 1908; closed 1975. Mission church of St Jude at Sandside (corrugated iron church built 1874; closed 2006) and mission-room at Ratton Row, Quay Street, (1867); now Grace Baptist Church, founded 1989. Town cemetery opened 1878 with three mortuary chapels (for Anglicans, Roman Catholics and Protestant nonconformists). Quaker meeting house, Swarthmoor, built 1688, replacing Swarthmoor Hall which had been used for Quaker worship since 1652. Quaker meetings held in school in New Church Lane from 1864; discontinued 1970. Congregational church, Soutergate, built 1777; enlarged 1847-8; closed 1968. House licensed for Baptist meetings by 1745; Baptist chapel built in Fountain Street 1871; closed. Wesleyan Methodist chapel, The Ellers, built 1814; replaced by new chapel on adjoining site in Neville Street, built 1899-1901; restored 1992; now Ulverston Methodist Church. Mission chapel, Steel Street, opened 1875; closed 1969. Primitive Methodist chapel, Union Street, built 1906; taken over by Church of Christ 1925; sold 1984 when congregation moved to former Victoria Concert Hall; now Emmanuel Christian Centre. Ulverston Church of Christ (seceded from Union Street congregation late 1920s) moved to meeting house in Mill Street, converted from stable 1977. Other nonconformist places of worship included: Free Church of England, Burlington Street (1880s); Salvation Army barracks in Burlington Street (opened 1895; closed 1920); Spiritualist church, County Square (recorded 1911); Bethany Christian Church (non-denominational), Lightburn Road. Roman Catholic mission in Dalton relocated to Ulverston 1779; small chapel built 1806, followed by church in Fountain Street (later Oddfellows’ Hall), built 1821; replaced by church of St Mary of Furness, Lightburn Road, built 1893-5. Convent in Ulverston from 1913 to 1929, when nuns moved to Barrow. Conishead Priory was acquired by English Buddhists 1976 and became Manjushri Buddhist Centre; Kadampa Buddhist temple built in grounds 1995-7.


Grammar school at Townbank founded and endowed by legacy of Judge Thomas Fell 1658; replaced by new higher grade school, Hart Street, opened 1900. New Grammar School built in Springfield Road 1930, Hart Street site becoming Victoria Senior School, later Victoria Secondary Modern School. Grammar School and Victoria School combined to create comprehensive school; Springfield Road premises became upper school; Hart Street premises lower school. Combined on former Grammar School site, Springfield Road, 1997; now Ulverston Victoria High School. Hart Street premises served as refugee centre during Balkan wars; demolished 2001 National school, The Ellers, built by public subscription 1834; enlarged 1884; closed 1930 (later used as labour exchange and, from 1999 to 2012, as Lanternhouse arts centre). Infant school, Church Walk, built 1854; rebuilt 1896; now Church Walk CE Primary School. National school, Dale Street, built 1876; enlarged 1886; junior girls’ department amalgamated with Lightburn junior boys by 1987; remaining infant school absorbed by Sir John Barrow Primary School 2009; Dale Street building demolished. Mixed school built at Sandside 1885; closed 1963 (pupils transferred to Lightburn School); reopened 1964 as special school; demolished 1997 and replaced by new premises nearby; now Sandside Lodge Special School. Lightburn Council mixed school, Argyll Street, opened 1915; site redeveloped as Sir John Barrow Primary School when Lightburn and Dale Street junior schools amalgamated. Croftlands housing estate served by Croftlands Infant and Junior primary schools, Oakwood Drive, built 1960s. Roman Catholic school opened at Tarnside 1824; replaced by St Mary’s RC School, Brogden Street, 1887; again replaced by new school in Springfield Park, 1971, when Brogden Street premises became Catholic Youth Club. Other denominational schools were Wesleyan school attached to Neville Street chapel (closed 1930s) and Quaker school in New Church Lane (recorded 1839).

Other institutions:

Neville Hall used as parish workhouse from 1753 until construction of new workhouse in Stanley Street for Ulverston Poor Law Union 1838, which became Stanley Hospital, part of Ulverston Hospital, 1948; demolished 2004. Cottage hospital opened 1873; enlarged 1904; closed and demolished 1971. Community Health Centre built on Stanley Street site c.2004. Children’s tuberculosis sanatorium at Oubas Hill opened 1928; became maternity home 1950; closed 1971. Conishead Priory (a hydropathic hotel, ‘The Paradise of Furness’, from 1878) purchased as convalescent home for Durham Miners 1928-9; used as military hospital in Second World War. Public entertainments held at Assembly Rooms and theatre, Theatre Street, built 1796 (now auction room); Victoria Concert Hall, Mill Street (built 1850; sold 1984 to become place of worship); Temperance Hall; Drill Hall (built 1873; and by 2013 used as Red Rose Social and Recreational Centre); Masonic Hall (built 1905-6) and Coronation Hall (opened 1920; still in use). Palladium Cinema, Victoria Road, opened 1922; closed 1957; demolished 1965 during road improvements. Roxy Cinema, Brogden Street, opened 1937; still in use. Library established 1797; modern library building dates from 1961. Laurel & Hardy Museum opened 1983; moved to larger premises in Roxy Cinema 2009.